I enter a new town with my new book. As always, I feel nervous as the train pulls into the station. I close my eyes and utter a final prayer for the day ahead.
That feeling never goes away. Butterflies. Nerves. Or is it the reality that you simply have no power over the outcome of cold calling to doors?
I take a deep breath as I enter a big housing estate. Pull a fresh copy of the book from my bag. Another intake of breath, then knock on my first door.
Before you catch the next breath between your first and second sentence it’s
‘Sorry. Not interested!’
The door closes quicker than it opened.
‘Ok. Thanks,’ I mutter as I close the gate behind.
Next door. I ring the bell this time. A young teenager opens it.
‘Emm . . . Sorry. Me ma is in the shower!’ he says, trying to hide the fact his mother is probably watching The X Factor.
‘Ah, my good man!’ smiles the white-haired gentleman, probably a retired manager. ‘So . . . what? You wrote this yourself? Whew! Some size book. How much is the damage?’ he asks, without bothering to read the blog at the back.
‘It’s only €10,’ I reply, now feeling a bit more relaxed.
‘Ha, ha,ha! I like the only €10 part. Sure, go on, then. We’ll have one of them. There you go.’ He pulls his wallet out. ‘Oh, will you sign it to my wife, Anne. She’s the reader in the house.’
Right. Now I’m settling into the zone. I pull a fresh book out of the bag.
‘You’re WHAT? My hearing isn’t the best. Can you say that again? . . . You’re what, love? A writer? Ok, ok. And what? You’re selling a book? . . . Sure I’m too old to read. I’m 81, son, and my eyes are very bad. Sorry about that. But hold on! Sure, I’ll take it for my son. He reads a lot. I’ll give it to him for Christmas.’
Two hours later I’m face to face with the stark reality of life in this world. I’m sitting in a house as a 79-year-old dear lady explains through the tears about her husband who was 45 years of age at the time.
‘Now 40 years ago,’ she explains. ‘He was laughing, I remember, as he raced out the door. “See you at 5.30, Carol,” he says. An hour and a half later, the Guards called with the awful news . . .’ She pauses to dry her eyes. ‘Feels like only yesterday.’ She sobs again. ‘He was crossing the road to the shop when . . . when a car hit him. He was thrown into a garden wall and died.’
I stand up and put my arms around her. No words. What can you say? But surely listening means everything.
Half an hour later I I enter the platform. I place my train ticket into the machine. Another day over, I sigh.
A group of girls and lads walk pass. Headphones on. Faces stuck in an iPad. On-line. Facebook, no doubt. The reality of it all.